Fort Worden

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Fort Worden
Pt Townsend, WA Ft. Worden buildings 01.jpg
Historic buildings at Fort Worden.
Fort Worden is located in Washington (state)
Fort Worden
Fort Worden is located in the US
Fort Worden
Location Cherry and W Sts.
Port Townsend, Washington
Coordinates 48°08′23″N 122°45′57″W / 48.139753°N 122.76586°W / 48.139753; -122.76586Coordinates: 48°08′23″N 122°45′57″W / 48.139753°N 122.76586°W / 48.139753; -122.76586
Architect US Government War Dept.
NRHP reference # 74001954
Significant dates
Added to NRHP March 15, 1974 [1]
Designated NHLD December 8, 1976[2]

Fort Worden and accompanying Fort Worden State Park are located in Port Townsend, along Admiralty Inlet in Washington state.[3] It is on 433 acres (175 ha) that originally was a United States Army installation to protect Puget Sound. Fort Worden was named after U.S. Navy Rear Admiral John Lorimer Worden, commander of the USS Monitor during its famous battle during the American Civil War.

Constructed between 1898 and 1920, Fort Worden was the only post built according to the precepts of the Endicott Board on land that was already occupied by an older fortification, and it was one of the largest Endicott system forts to be built. It was also the only one within range of a potential (if unlikely) enemy fortification, a British military post on Vancouver Island in Canada.[4] The fort was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.[2]


The North Beach at Fort Worden.

Fort Worden was an active US Army base from 1902 to 1953. It was purchased by the State of Washington in 1957 to house a juvenile detention facility. In 1971, use was transferred to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and Fort Worden State Park was opened in 1973.

Strategic location[edit]

In the 1890s, Admiralty Inlet was considered strategic to the defense of Puget Sound in the that three forts -- Fort Worden, Fort Flagler, and Fort Casey -- were built at the entrance with their powerful artillery creating a "Triangle of Fire" to thwart any invasion attempt by sea. Fort Worden, on the Quimper Peninsula, at the extreme northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, sits on a bluff near Port Townsend, anchoring the northwest side of the triangle. The three posts were designed to prevent a hostile fleet from reaching such targets as the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the cities of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett.

The forts never fired a hostile shot and the guns were removed during World War I for use in Europe. Subsequently, Fort Worden was used for training a variety of military personnel and for other defense purposes.[5]


Alexander's Castle.

Construction on Fort Worden began in 1897 and continued in one form or another until the fort was closed in 1953.

Designed as part of the massive modernization program of U.S. seacoast fortifications initiated by the Endicott Board, construction work on the initial fortifications above Point Wilson were delayed until July 1897. The property was privately owned and the government had to clear title to the land through condemnation proceedings. The Army Corps of Engineers took charge of building the construction dock, warehouses, and a tramway to haul concrete for the gun emplacements from the dock to the mixing plant. To meet construction needs, the Army laid a pipeline from Port Townsend and pumped water into large storage tanks inside the fort. The arrival of wet winter weather slowed progress on the batteries. It took 200 men almost three years to complete the excavation and concrete work for the gun emplacements.

In March 1900, the fort was ready for installation of the initial armaments. Sixteen artillery pieces, shipped from the armory at Columbus, Ohio, arrived from Tacoma by barge. A special tramway was constructed to haul the heavy artillery pieces from the dock area to top of the bluff. In March 1901 the guns were moved to their assigned positions and mounted in the batteries, ready for test firing.

Fort Worden was activated in 1902. The 126th Coast Artillery Company, consisting of 87 soldiers, commanded by Captain Manus McCloskey, was the first detachment assigned to Fort Worden. They arrived from Seattle on board the steamer SS Majestic on May 3, 1902, and were quartered in tents pending the completion of the barracks. Twenty-three permanent buildings were under construction at a cost of $59,450. A communication system, connecting the three forts by cable, was installed in 1903.

Military use[edit]

On September 4, 1904, the headquarters of the Harbor Defense Command of Puget Sound was transferred from Fort Flagler to Fort Worden along with the 6th Artillery Band. Once work on the main batteries and army post had been completed, more troops were assigned there. By the fall of 1905, Fort Worden was fully staffed with four Coast Artillery companies, and the harbor defense system, costing approximately $7.5 million, was considered complete and operational. The initial armaments consisted of six gun emplacements: Batteries Ash, Powell, Brannon, Quarles, Randol, and Vicars. Between 1905 and 1910, six additional gun emplacements were added: Batteries Tolles, Stoddard, Benson, Putnam, Walker, and Kinzie. When completed, Fort Worden had 41 artillery pieces, completing its part of the "Triangle of Fire": two 12-inch disappearing guns, two 12-inch barbette guns, two 10-inch disappearing guns, five 10-inch barbette guns, eight 6-inch disappearing guns, two 5-inch balanced pillar guns, four 3-inch pedestal guns, and sixteen 12-inch mortars.

During World War I, the complement at Fort Worden was greatly expanded as soldiers arrived for training prior to being sent to European battlefields. To keep up with the demand, construction of new barracks and buildings continued throughout the war. Thirty-six of the fort's 41 artillery pieces were dismantled and shipped to European battlefields. After World War I, the fort's staffing was reduced to 50 officers and 884 enlisted men. Aircraft and balloons began to claim an important role in Puget Sound's defensive strategy, diminishing the role of coastal artillery. In the 1920s, a balloon hangar was built at Fort Worden at a cost of $85,000. During this time, some of the batteries were modernized and made "bomb-proof."

During World War II, Fort Worden remained the headquarters of the Harbor Defense Command and it was jointly operated by the Army and Navy. The fort was home to the 14th Coast Artillery Regiment of the U.S. Army, the 248th Coast Artillery Regiment of the Washington National Guard, the 2nd Amphibious Engineers, and miscellaneous U.S. Navy personnel. The Army operated radar sites and coordinated Canadian and U.S. defense activities in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound. The Navy, responsible for the detection and identification of all vessels entering and leaving Puget Sound, monitored new underwater sonar and sensing devices. Most of the gun emplacements were modified for anti-aircraft guns, which replaced the outdated coastal artillery pieces. Fort Worden personnel also manned batteries and fire control towers at the Cape George Military Reservation, six miles (10 km) southwest of Port Townsend on the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the entrance to Discovery Bay.

After World War II, the Coast Artillery units at Fort Worden were disbanded and the gun batteries were dismantled. It remained active as an administrative unit until June 30, 1953, when the Harbor Defense Command was deactivated and the fort officially closed, ending fifty-one years of military jurisdiction.

369th Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment retreat parade, May 1951

Following World War II, the 2nd Engineer Special Brigade was stationed at Fort Worden. At the outset of the Korean war, the 2nd Engineer Special brigade was among the first Army units ordered to Korea to reinforce the Far East Command.[6] After the departure in the summer of 1950 of the 2nd Engineer Special Brigade for Korea, an Army Reserve unit, the 369th Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment (later redesignated the 369th Engineer Amphibious Support Regiment), was stationed at Fort Worden where the regiment trained engineer replacements. The 369th was a suborinate unit of the 409th Engineer Special Brigade. The regimental headquarters and the boat battalion were stationed at Fort Worden. The regiment's shore battalion was at Fort Flagler. The 369th Engineer Amphibious Support Regiment was demobilized in 1953.

On July 1, 1957, the State of Washington purchased Fort Worden for $127,533 for use as a diagnostic and treatment center for troubled youths.


Coastal artillery batteries located at Fort Worden were:[7][8]

  • Battery Brannan (1901–1943), located on Artillery Hill. It had two plotting rooms for eight 12-inch mortars, in 1906 command was split and removed one plotting room, in 1918 half the mortars were removed from each pit. It was named for Brevet Maj. General John Milton Brannan who served in the U.S.-Mexican War and Civil War
  • Battery Powell (1901–1943), located next to Battery Brannan. Also contained eight 12-inch mortars. Named after Major Powell who died on April 6, 1862 at the Battle of Shiloh.
  • Battery Ash (1900–1942), located on Artillery Hill. Contained two 12-inch barbette guns. It was named after Brevet Lt. Col Ash who died on May 8, 1864 at Todd's Tavern, Virginia
  • Battery Kinzie (1910–1944), located on Point Wilson, contained two 12-inch M1895 disappearing guns.
  • Battery Benson (1907–1943), located on Artillery Hill. It contained two 10 inch disappearing guns. It was named after Captain Benson who died on August 11, 1862 from wounds received in action. Battery Benson has a tunnel that runs to buildings (now in ruins) on the hill peak, two "Barrancas buildings" used for command and plotting, a barracks, a 2,000,000-US-gallon (6.1 acre·ft) water reservoir, the switchboard, and signal station.
  • Battery Quarles (1900–1941), located on Artillery Hill. It contained three 10 inch barbette guns. It was named for Captain Quarles who died on August 30, 1847 at the Battle of Churubusco, Mexico
  • Battery Randol (1900–1918), located on Artillery Hill. It contained two 10 inch barbette guns. It was named for Brevet Brigadier General Randol a Civil War hero.
  • Battery Stoddard (1906–1917), located on the bluff facing Admiralty Inlet. Contained four 6-inch (152 mm) guns.
  • Battery Tolles (1905–1943), located along the beach bluff below Artillery Hill. Contained four 6-inch (152 mm) guns, two guns were removed in 1918.
  • Battery Tolles B (1937–1946);
  • Battery Vicars (1902–1917), located on Point Wilson. Contained two 5-inch (127 mm) guns.
  • Battery Putnam (1907–1945), located on the bluff facing Admiralty Inlet. Contained two 3-inch (76 mm) guns.
  • Battery Walker (1907–1946), located on the bluff facing the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Contained two 3-inch (76 mm) guns.
  • AMTB Battery Point Wilson (1943–1946), (2 fixed and 2 towed 90 mm guns) of which one gunblock is now in the surf.

Fort Worden State Park[edit]

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission acquired most of Fort Worden on September 30, 1971, when the state closed the juvenile treatment center. The 433-acre (175 ha) Fort Worden State Park was opened on August 18, 1973.[9] Today the 2.1 miles (3.4 km) of sandy beaches and high bluffs attract residents from around the region to the multi-use recreation facility.

The extensive system of large, abandoned bunkers are available for exploration. The state park includes the Puget Sound Coast Artillery Museum,[10] a balloon hangar that was used for airships, three 3-inch anti-aircraft gun emplacements, and several restored quarters on Officers' Row. The Point Wilson Lighthouse is also located here.

The Commanding Officer's Quarters have been restored to reflect the early 20th century Victorian period, and are open in the summer for tours.

The independent publisher of poetry, Copper Canyon Press, located permanently at Fort Worden in 1974.[11]

The park also is the home of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, whose natural history museum, hands-on tidepool exhibits and educational programs promote understanding about coastal ecosystems.[12]

The 1982 movie An Officer and a Gentleman was filmed at Fort Worden, as well as the 2002 film The Ring.

Goddard College's Port Townsend campus hosts several of its program residencies at Fort Worden.

360° Panorama from Fort Worden State Park, Point Wilson on a sunny July evening at sunset. Batteries Kinzie and Vicars nearby.

One notable feature of the park is the underground Dan Harpole Cistern, originally built to hold water for fire-fighting, in the event that the fort was attacked and put to the torch. The cistern was drained in the 1950s when the Fort was closed, leaving an underground space more than 200 feet in diameter and 14 feet deep. This huge subterranean chamber has an acoustical reverberation time of around 45 seconds, and has attracted the interest of various musicians and recording artists, among them Wayne Horvitz, Pauline Oliveros, and Stuart Dempster. The Park management rents out the cistern for recording events, on a day-to-day basis.

As of 2014, the cistern has been closed to access.

Military cemetery[edit]

A small military cemetery, maintained by the Public Works Directorate at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, is located at the south side of the state park.[13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b "Fort Worden". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  3. ^ TopoQuest topographical mapping web site, accessed July 10, 2008
  4. ^ "NHL nomination for Fort Worden" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-04-18. 
  5. ^ St. George, Peter. "Fort Worden History". SaintImages. Retrieved 2011-07-23. 
  6. ^ Pg 93, Policy and Direction, The First Year, Center of Military History, 1972
  7. ^ St. George, Peter. "Battery Information". Fort Worden: Rebirth Through Decay. SaintImages. Retrieved 27 July 2011. 
  8. ^ Tour map, Puget Sound Coast Artillery Museum, partial ref
  9. ^ Washington State Parks Fort Worden web site Archived 2014-07-24 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ "Official site". Puget Sound Coast Artillery Museum. Retrieved 29 January 2015. 
  11. ^ "Copper Canyon Press". Fort Worden State Park. Retrieved 2007-07-08. 
  12. ^ "Port Townsend Marine Science Center". Fort Worden State Park. Retrieved 2016-02-12. 
  13. ^ FindaGrave: Fort Worden Military Cemetery
  14. ^ Jefferson County Genealogical Society: Fort Worden Military Cemetery

External links[edit]